Just like every shmoe in the blogging-o-sphere, I have a couple of things, and I wanted to get them out so that at least I'd quit thinking about them.
1. The Whiny Wurlitzer: It took not long at all for people who should have known better to stick up for Don Imus. Some of them were signal disappointments–when Tom Oliphant was a regular on the Al Franken show I looked forward to his chats with Al. He was always entertaining and seemed smart and funny, so I was kind of astounded when he stuck up for him.
It has developed that the conventional wisdom has it that the Imus show was a center of low humor and high-brow talk, with those wanting exposure and validation as part of the pundit class willing to grimace and pay the price of not objecting to ugly and insulting speech in order to get their Pundit ticket punched.
Ana Marie Cox, nee Wonkette, she who seemed to have grown interested in being a stylish pundit rather than the persona that made her famous when she was elevated to the status of colleague at Time magazine, wrote a mea culpa that gives heart, however. Going straight to the heart of it:
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took Imus' saying something so devastatingly crass to make me realize that there just was no reason beyond ego to play along. I did the show almost solely to earn my media-elite merit badgeOnce they are in the media elite, of course, is when they forget that they were once human being and start playing to each other. The punditry isn't talking to us; they haven't been for a very long time now.
But I digress. The referenced bit splash of cool water is sadly in the minority, however, made up with a torrent of how unfair it all is to Imus, that he's being criticized by people who themselves are intemperate or a phrase such as nappy-headed hos is used at large in hip-hip culture, so it's okay that Imus used it as an offhand josh.
All of it's beside the point, and misses the mark by a mile. Words such as these come with baggage and meaning, and if one uses it at all, one must understand what it is that they are saying, and especially if they are flippantly talking about people they don't really even know. The description of hair as nappy goes back into a history of white oppression of black cultural and beauty norms, and ho...do we really have to define what that is and what it means?
If that was my sister, girlfriend, cousin, or friend he'd slighted, I'd be mad as hell. Depend on it.
Did he deserve to lose his job over it, even though nobody around him is an angel? Hell yes. Actually, AFAIC, he deserved to lose his job long ago. He's always been tasteless and not funny.
If Imus was prompted into saying it by his executive producer, then he was stupid as well as insensitive. Regrettably, in our society, wealth equates to success and to validity, so it wasn't merely enough that he acted like a Neanderthal to get him fired; he also had to lose sponsors by the droves before he was shown the door.
2. Well, What About....
Well, what about 'em?
In the ensuing discourse we've heard much about how unfair it was for people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to call for Imus's head. Maybe it was unfair for them to do so. But, like I said, this misses the point.
The dialog we ought to be having, I think, is why Don Imus was fired for saying what he said, and why certain appalling behaviors haven't cost some others: why Bill Bennett hasn't suffered for wondering out loud that maybe the crime rate would fall if you aborted all black fetuses; why Glenn Beck still has a job after the way he treated a legally-elected US Representative with thinly-veiled scorn; why Neil Boortz can get on a station anywhere (I'd be typing all night if I took on why this buffoon is offensive, and not just the "ghetto-slut" hairdo remark he made about Cynthia McKinney, why Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and anyone at FOX News gets to make a prosperous living despite the way they act and the things they say.
People, you think they are on your side. They aren't. Their livelihoods depend on you swallowing whatever they say and taking it to the bank. They think you are funny dumb people who can be whipped into a frenzy whenever they get upset about something. They act as though they care about you while, inside, they're laughing their asses off at you.
And they are setting the tone for our public conversations on race and economic inequality. They're eating you out from the inside.
The tagline on Neal Boortz's site reads "somebody's gotta say it". I disagree.
3. And Let's all complain about Political Correctness
When I was but a neat thing, I was taught some basic rules for getting by. We didn't spend a whole lot of time on table settings and how to cut your meat; I'm from the lumpen side of the tracks. But I was schooled on some basic rules of human behavior. These included:
- Speaking well of others
- If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't.
- Don't make gratuitous remarks about someone's race.
- Don't imply that someone you're talking with is a criminal or worse if you don't know better.
Now, I am after all a human being. I can't say I've been perfectly conforming to those rules, but when I mess up and know I'm in the wrong I try to make amends (and not in the Imus-style, "well, they're saying it so it's got to be okay for me to say it too").
But these days, the term "political correctness" gets tossed about almost as a code for "gee, I'd really like to be able to say whatever nasty thing I want about people I dislike, disrespect and fear and not get rung up for it".
Okay, then call it politeness. Call it genteel society. Call it the sort of mindset which would not necessarily go for the insult when gracious style can be used.
Or think of it this way; one hopefully wants to be respected for who they are and what they believe. Respect is an exchange, and if you want some, you'll have to extend some.
An aquaintance whose words I usually find most engaging, Susan Kirkland, has insightful words on this general subject which I also find inspiring, and should be read by all.
Tags: Imus, political correctness, good manners